Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘World War II’ Category

[LISTENED TO: August 2017] Adventures with Waffles

I saw this book in the library and the title sounded interesting. The blurb on the back when enticing as well, so I grabbed it for our family road trip.

I had no idea that the book was a translation of a Norwegian story (Vafflehjarte) nor that it had already been translated into English as Waffle Hearts (a much more accurate, and frankly much more satisfying title).  I gather from a little research that Waffle Hearts is a British translation and Adventures with Waffles is an American one (although they both have the same translator, Guy Puzey).

The story is about Trille and Lena, two kids who live next door to each other in the village of Mathildawick Cove in Norway.  Their village is small and there are only 9 kids in their grade.  Lena is the only girl. The bully Kai-Tommy wishes she weren’t in their class.  But Trille feels that Lena is his best friend (he hopes it is reciprocated, but is unsure).  She is wild, she is spontaneous, she is dangerous.  And she is a lot of fun. (more…)

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

SOUNDTRACK: JOSEPH-Live at the Newport Folk Festival (July 29, 2017).

 Every year, NPR goes to the Newport Folk Festival so we don’t have to.  A little while afterwards, they post some streams of the shows (you used to be able to download them, but now it’s just a stream).  Here’s a link to the Joseph set; stream it while it’s still active.

Joseph is a band of three sisters and their sound is a little like Indigo Girls–if there were three of them.

When Natalie, Meegan and Allison Closner shout together to the heavens, accompanied only by Natalie’s acoustic guitar, it’s a joyful noise that intrinsically celebrates their bond.

So yes, Joseph is all about harmonies.  They play six songs from their recent album I’m Okay, No You’re Not which is a pretty great release (with a few songs that go a little too commercial).  For the most part, it is just one guitar and three voices.

Their first song “Stay Awake” starts off quietly with one of the sisters (Natalie, I assume) singing and plucking a spare melody on the guitar.  And then about a minute and fifteen second in, all three sisters sing and suddenly the song is magical.

 “Canyon” has a number of amazing moments, but especially when they sing along with one of the sisters taking lead and the other two doing some great harmonies.  When the lead sings “I wanna feel it,” all three singers soar to the rafters in a gorgeous harmony (around 7:25 of this set).

They get applause for “S.O.S.” before playing it.  This is their poppiest song and the one that verges closest to a sound I don’t like (especially for them).  But it’s hard to deny it when they sound so good live.

For “Planets” they ask if anybody wants to sing and they give the audience a mildly complicated melody to sing.  I can’t really tell if the audience is any good at it, but the sisters seem to like it.  And “I Don’t Mind” has a terrific melody even without the harmonies, but when they come in it’s even better.

They describe “Sweet Dreams” as like a lullaby that they used to say to their mom ” Sweet dreams, I love you, good night.”  But this song is anything but a lullaby.  The melody is sophisticated and their voices are powerful.  It’s quite something,.

They have time for two more.  We’ll sing one from our old record and…maybe our single.  That single, “White Flag” finds a stellar balance of pop and folk.  It hits just the right edges of pop to make the song insanely catchy but with an almost aggressive folksiness that is undeniable.  And live it’s almost breathtaking.

Their voices are just amazing.

[READ: June 20, 2017] “I Have Fallen in Love with American Names”

Earlier this month I posted a piece from Roth about names.  I assume that this excerpt comes from the same source.

Roth’s parents were born in New Jersey at the start of the twentieth century.  They were at home in America even though “they had no delusions and knew themselves to be socially stigmatized and regarded as repellent alien outsiders.”  And that is the culture that Philip grew up in.

Butt the writers who shaped his sense of country were born in America some thirty to sixty years before him.  They were mostly small town Midwesterners and Southerners.  None were Jews.

What shaped those writers was not mass immigration from the Old Country and the threat of anti-Semetic violence, but the overtaking of farms and villages  values by business culture.

He says what attracted him to writers like Theodore Dreiser, Sherwood Anderson, Ring Lardner, Sinclair Lewis, Thomas Wolfe and Erskine Caldwell was his own ignorance of everything North South and West of Newark, New Jersey.  And the way that America from 1941 to 1945 was unified: (more…)

Read Full Post »

 SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Clinton’s Tavern Toronto ON (October 20, 1990).

From the Rheostatics Live website:

Very good sounding show though a bit hot in places. I had to stitch it together from 2 tapes and a messed up order but I think I got it right. Interesting that back in 1990, before even Melville was recorded, they were playing such a large selection of songs from Whale Music and even Introducing Happiness plus a bunch of songs that didn’t end up on any album such as Fluffy, Seems Like, Woodstuck, Memorial Day etc. One of the only times they played all three Joey related songs in succession. Louis Melville guests as well as Jim Hughes of 13 Engines. I don’t believe this is the full show as they talk about to going into Edmund Fitzgerald but the tape ends.

I had planned to post about these Rheostatics live shows in order, but I’d somehow missed this one.  Interestingly though, they play a bunch of songs that they would not record for several years–some of them are early incarnations of songs, too.

As the Daves introduce the band, the phrase one fell swoop comes up.  And Bidini says that they are One Fell Swoop.  Then Clark says we are One Swell Poop.   Bidini continues: The Holmgren Brotehrs, Dave and Dave.  That’s Frosty Flake on bass and Ken “The Rat” Linseman on the rat pedal.  I gather that Bidini has a mustache (there’s a Freddy Mercury joke later in the show), but he says “The mods called me a rich kid on the street because of his mustache.  They called me dude too.  Which isn’t modish or contemporary.

After some noise and static Dave says the first song was supposed to start with a technological flourish of some kind.  It’s “Jesus Was Once a Teenager Too” [Introducing Happiness] and it is sung by Dave and Dave (!)  It sounds so strange and there’s no middle section at all.  Midway through they call out Lewis Melville from Guelph Ontario to play the guitar.

They play they crazy noisy staccato intro to “When Winter Comes” [Melville] and the song rocks out.  At the end Bidini says it is three songs rolled into one: Big Bear’s Birthday, When Winter Comes and Victoria.  They play “Northern Wish” [Melville] and “Woodstuck.”  Dave introduces “Seems Like” as written about a guy Martin met in Dublin who told the band they had no vision.  It includes the line:  “a sentimental flower child bawls me out for lacking vision…fuck you, dude.”

Then they introduce a song “about a great hockey player gone bad its called “Beer” [Would eventually be “Beerbash” on Whale Music].

Bidini says they are really the tragedy corner here–that was depressing so is this one (“Soul Glue”) [Whale Music] Tim says, “I thought you meant we were sucking.”  There’s no Benjamin Hayward in the lyrics.  And during the part about the police, someone chants “911 is a joke.”

Clark gives a bizarro story as an introduction to “Ditch Pigs”: he and Martin got into fisticuffs punch up in the Rockies.  They stole policeman’s peanut butter and smeared it on each other and then fell into a ditch.  None of that is true, someone points out.

Marty’s got a case of the bombastic flu–the four week flu.  And so they play “Martin’s First Day of School” [never released] although they claim it is from their forthcoming album Rheostatics Cut Their Head Off and Go Swimming or form their triple CD retrospective Smelling a Dog on a Sunny Day.

They play “Memorial Day” which is also kind of a downer [never recorded].  And then a fun introduction to “Who” [Whale Music]:

Just back from Neil Young’s ranch in Topanga Canyon Mr Jim Hughes of 13 Engines.   Then comes “Chanson les Ruelles” [Melville], “Sickening Song” [Whale Music] with lots of accordion that segues into “What’s Going On” [also Whale Music] with a nice solo at the end by Martin.

This leads into “Fluffy,” the only time it’s available live here.  Martin hits some absurd high notes–I wonder if they ever intended to record it.  Dave introduces a song called “Dealin at the 7-11” which would of course be Legal Age Life at Variety Store [Whale].  Then comes two songs from Melville: “Christopher” and “Horses.”  “Horses” starts acoustic ad kind of slow, but it gets really loud with some interesting guitar solo sounds and a few changed lines.

Clark says after a minute (my-noot) break they will be back momentarily.

When they come back Dave Bidini congratulates the Cincinnati Reds for winning the world series “Big Bad Jose Canceco arriving there on the hook, you got what you deserve, you big asshole.”  Yipes.  Clark diffuses this but apologizing to all hockey fans for the baseball season hanging on so long.  Long live hockey!  Death to the fat mans’ sport.  They Clark explains that they have challenged the Leafs to a fun game against their Rock and Roll Hacker Jets: Dave Tim and Dave on the front line and Rick “whomp um” Wamsley in goal.

Someone shouts that Judy quit her job.  They seem excited and then when martin sings “Record Body Count” he sings–“Judy pulled herself to her feet.”  Then they play “Joey 2” and “Joey 3.”  It’s followed by great versions of Saskatchewan” & “Dope Fiends.”

There’s a fun green sprouts theme (with someone singing loudly and out of key) and then a surprising “Rain Rain Rain” [Whale] described as a quiet version with Clark cracking up at the end for unknown reasons.  There’ s cool version of “Aliens” [Melville].   And then one of the last versions of “Good on the Uptake.”  It’s really long with some hearty jamming.

We find out that it is almost 1AM, and then there’s a nice version of “Lyin’s Wrong” [Melville].  Dave gasps and says “Martin transformed into a gay librarian right before my eyes.”  It’s clear that they are planning to play more songs.  Indeed it seems like they have many more songs to go.  Bidini says he’d love to play Edmund Fitzgerald tonight and then the tape cuts off.

For such an old tape, the sound quality is quite good and the song selection is really fascinating since they had barely released any of the songs.

[READ: August 17, 2016] “A Sigh and a Salute”

This is the second essay about an artist that Spiegelman had written for Harper’s in 2016.  I wonder if it will become a regular thing?

This essay is about Si Lewen, an artist of whom I’ve never heard.  It is actually from the introduction to Parade: An Artist’s Odyssey.

Spiegelman says he has one of Si Lewen’s “Ghosts” hanging in his studio.  Lewen began the series of Ghosts in 2008 and has made over 200.

Spiegelman gives Lewen’s complex history: Born in Poland in 1918, his family moved to Berlin as World War I ended.  They were trying to escape Polish antisemitism and found the German version. When Hitler became Chancellor, Si Lewen aged 14, decided to leave Germany.  He and his brother left the family behind and went to Paris.  There was some luck on his side.  Si’s uncle in America had organized a fund-raiser for Admiral Byrd’s expedition to the South Pole.  Byrd’s brother, a Senator, arranged for Si’s entire family to get Visas in America in 1935.  But even America wasn’t great for Si.  In 1936, while sitting in Central Park after visiting the Met, a policeman upon hearing his accent grabbed him, rowed him out to the island in the center of the lake, bludgeoned and robbed him.  What the holy fuck? (more…)

Read Full Post »

1997SOUNDTRACK:LOS HACHEROS-Tiny Desk Concert #545 (July 5, 2016).

hacherosLos Hacheros play “Afro-Caribbean music that provides the source material for modern salsa and all of its permutations.”

This music swings and bounces and with such simple instrumentation: an upright bass and a guitar.  With the main melodies constructed by the trombone and vocal (the trombonist doubles on violin).  But the rest of the band is there for percussion–cowbells, shakers and the conga.

The band plays three songs all sung in Spanish.  It’s fun to watch them get into the groove and begin to sway in unison to the music.

“Baila Con Los Hacheros” features a violin solo that is pretty intense “Papote’s Guajira” features an acoustic guitar solo that is complex and fun to watch. It also has a lengthy flute solo (the violinist also plays the flute!). “Bambulaye” features NPR’s own Felix Contreras on congas–he gets a solo–apparently he has been playing in bands for years.  What a nice surprise.

[READ: November 3, 2016] The Complete Peanuts 1997-1998

This is the second to last book of collected strips from Schulz.  Rerun features quite prominently and Linus has faded somewhat.  Snoopy is no longer playing characters (except for the soldier..always soldiers) and Charlie is still pining for things he won’t get.

1997 opens with Charlie showing Linus his autographed Joe Shlabotnik baseball.  But Linus thinks it’s a forgery.  Cue a week of strips about an autograph forger (who tries to hire Charlie as his accomplice).  I love that Schulz went on strange little tangents like this, but I always feel like he doesn’t follow through with these funny ideas. The whole premise of this just ends never to be heard from again.

And then in a surprise to me, Snoopy starts acting like a Revolutionary War patriot standing guard at Valley Forge.  He seems to have given up on WWI and gone back in time to a far less dramatic role–he mostly just stands around in the cold.  Strips about that occur from time to tome with him talking to General Washington.  The last one is in December 1998 where he realizes he is only guarding snow. (more…)

Read Full Post »

peanuts-1995SOUNDTRACK: TINARIWEN-Tiny Desk Concert #184 (January 5, 2012).

tinariwenTinariwen are a band from northern Mali, whose members met in the training camps of Col. Moammar Gadhafi. Much has been written about them and their story, which is pretty amazing.  I’m only going to talk about this Tint Desk Concert.

Typically, they play an interesting electric guitar kind of trance music.  But for this one they were all acoustic.  As Bob Boilen notes, they are his “favorite electric-guitar-based band on the planet.”  But he says he was:

“initially worried and disappointed when I learned that it was coming to play the Tiny Desk as a trio carrying acoustic guitars. My heart sank a bit more when the three Tuareg musicians from the Sahara arrived in jeans and polo shirts instead of the beautiful, flowing robes I’d seen them wear on stage so many times.

But they switched clothes and they do not disappoint on acoustic guitar.

I don’t know their music all that well, but it feels like the acoustic nature of this show is even more soothing and trance inducing.  The two acoustic guitars interweave–one playing lead (which is mostly hammered notes–not a “solo” per se) and the other strumming.  The percussion is the sound of two hands rubbing, clacking (with a cigarette lighter) and pounding (for bass drum) a large gourd.

The songs tend to be almost looping.  Like they could go on forever.  There’s no real verse chorus structure that I can tell.  It’s more of a meditative sound.

All of the vocals are in Tamashek and I have no idea what the songs are about.

On “Adounia” both guitarists sing and the voices sound very traditional, almost atonal. “Takkest Tamidaret” opens with a more conventional sounding guitar lick, but it’s all so quiet in the mix, that you can’t tell how much his fingers are moving.  The lyrics are a bit slower, but still in that droning style.  I love the way “Tenhert”  has a a cool riff from the lead guitar–one that probably sounds more intense on electric guitar.  He sing/speaks incredibly quickly.  “Tahlamoyt” is a much slower song with the lyrics pretty much all spoken word.

The “Mali sound” is pretty distinctive and Tinariwen are great proponents of it, spreading it around the world for all to hear.

[READ: June 8, 2016] The Complete Peanuts 1995-1996

I was under the impression that these last few volumes of books would show a serious drop in quality.  I had assumed that with the amount of product the Peanuts characters were sponsoring that these strips would be more cute.  But that is far from true.  I enjoyed this book as much if mot more than some of the other recent volumes.

I was also surprised to discover that I really enjoyed the Sunday cartoons more than the dailies.  In the past I haven’t really gotten big laughs form the Sundays–it seemed like the big stories and jokes were in the dailies and the Sundays were unrelated one offs with varying degrees of punch.  But I enjoyed a dozen or so in this book.

One of the major additions in this book is the inclusion of a slightly older Rerun.  He is now mobile and even heading to kindergarten (I love that he is aging while the others aren’t).  But rather than using Rerun for obvious cute child jokes (he’s no longer riding the back of his mom’s bike) Rerun is now making funny “outsider” observations about the world of Peanuts–he is constantly disenchanted with the way  things are going and with the belief that people are always lying to him.  There are also a ton of strips of him trying to shoot a basketball and failing miserably.  Schulz has always tended to take an idea and run and run and run with it, but this one is pretty good for the number that he uses it. (more…)

Read Full Post »

1993-1994 SOUNDTRACK: LEON BRIDGES-Tiny Desk Concert #469 (September 8, 2015).

leonLeon Bridges has a great old soul voice.  Indeed, I had no idea he was so young until he started speaking after the third song and all manner of young person chat came out of his mouth: “Thanks to my main man, you all looking beautiful man.”  His voice is pure and clean and hearkens back to 1960s soul singers like Sam Cooke.

The way he sings “baby baby baby” in “Coming Home” is classic soul.  And his enunciation of “mouth” is just gorgeous.  This song features the backing vocals of his sister Jesse.

“Smooth Sailin'” features a sax solo and Bridges on guitar.  Since there are 2 guitarists already Bridges’ guitar doesn’t  add much, but for me it’s all about his voice anyhow.

“Twistin’ & Groovin'” is about how his grandparents met.  He says the first time he saw her at a party the thing he noticed first about her was her long legs.

“River” is just him on acoustic guitar with Jesse singing backing vocals.

It’s a solid set and Bridges’ star has continued to rise since this show.

[READ: September 18, 2016]  The Complete Peanuts: 1993-1994

I didn’t like the previous book all that much, but this one picked things up a bit.

The year starts with Snoopy taking a test in school and acing the true false part–the only one to do so!

1993 has Schulz’ first celebration of MLK day.  Patty mentions the “I have a dream speech” but I love that she just mentions it without making it a big deal, it quickly changes to an unfair lunch swap between a carrot stick and french fry.  Speaking of old words, Lucy begins insulting Linus with: blockhead airhead, noodleneck but then finds that these older words work better: puzzlewit, dimbulb.

In pop culture notes, April 1993 sees Snoopy as Joe Grunge and in May 1993 Sally asks why is Barney purple? (more…)

Read Full Post »

coin2 hiddenSOUNDTRACK: MATANA ROBERTS-Coin Coin: Chapter 2 Mississippi Moonchile [CST098] (2013).

The first chapter of this series was a sprawling disc of free-form jazz and spoken word.  It was interesting and strange with a powerful message (not always elegantly delivered).  It felt too long, but I think it was done live which would make it more understandable as a long presentation.

Chapter 2 is quite different.  It is much shorter, but it has 18 tracks that flow seamlessly (and often without apparent logic) into each other.  Most of the songs are quite short as well.

“invocation” is a sultry jazz number (Matana Roberts plays saxophone).  There’s also piano, trumpet, double bass and drums.  One thing that I didn’t like about the first chapter was Robert’s “poetry slam” deliver of her spoken words.  This album more or less erases that all together with the inclusion of Jeremiah Abiah on “operatic tenor vocals.”  I don’t know what he’s saying (if anything) most of the time, but his voice soars above the jazzy din.

“humility draws down blue” starts in the middle of a trumpet solo and lasts for a minute and a half.  “all nations” is only 8 seconds long and seems to coincide with a vocal line from Abiah.  “twelve sighed” settles things down some.

The first real change comes with “river ruby dues,” which opens with a gentle piano motif, and Abiah’s vocals.  Roberts’ sax solo plays throughout.  There are somewhat recognizable motifs played throughout the album.  I was sure I heard parts of “Pop Goes the Weasel.”

“amma jerusalem school” also opens with a new melody–a four note sax line–without a doubt the prettiest melody of the disc.  About mid-way through the song, Roberts begins speaking/reciting.  There’s a lot going on in her saga.  When that ends, more instrumentals continue and “responsory” has a lovely falsetto singing section.

This half of the album has been fairly conventional jazz: rather pretty with some nice melodies—far more conventional than Chapter 1.

Although by “the labor of their lips,” things have become a bit more avant-garde.  But even that doesn’t last too long and by “was the sacred day,” a pretty melody has resumed and more spoken word comes in, this time in stream of consciousness.  It’s a story of childhood with some happy and some sad details including: “they didn’t like black people at the hospital. you could use a room but no nurses would attend to you.” and the story of a woman getting whipped for not saying ‘sir.’   Interspersed through this tale is a sung line “I sing because I’m happy I sing because I’m free.”

‘woman red racked’ features Robert’s singing voice—pretty and pained—with some nice, deep backing voices accompanying.  Interestingly, this vocal part ends with them singing “Amen,” but the song is not over… a sax solo emerges from this and plays a kind of wild section with Abiah’s vocals until the end.

“thanks be you” is a spoken piece, a story told to a child about the past “there are some things I just can’t tell you about” which references a lot of childhood songs.  It ends with the repeated refrain “Mississippi is a beautiful place.”

This disc is only 48 minutes and it feels just about the right length,  “benediction” ends the disc with a quietly sung song with another singer accompanying her: their voices sound great together.

As with the first one, the narrative is a little unclear.  The main thrust of the story is obvious and effective, but it would be hard to diagram the story.  Nonetheless, her use of jazz and traditional sources (“red ruby dues,” “woman red racked” and “benediction” are based on traditional American folk songs), make for an evocative look into slavery from the point of view of one family.

[READ: March 20. 2016] Hidden

Having recently read the Resistance trilogy I am much more aware of France’s role in WWII.  But that could never have prepared me for this children’s book about the Holocaust.  (written by Loïc Dauvillier, translated from the French by Alexis Siegel with illustrations by Marc Lizano and Greg Salsedo).

The book opens on a little girl.  She wakes up in bed and hears her grandmother crying.  When she asks what’s wrong her grandmother tells her about the “nightmare she was having.”

And that nightmare is her story as a young Jewish girl in occupied France and how her life was brutally upended.  This is all told with fairly cute little characters with oversized heads.

I’ve never heard this story from the point of view of a child before.  Her grandmother was a little girl going to school.  She and her friends did everything that you’d expect little kids to do and the story starts out very sweetly.  Then one day she comes home and her father says that they must all be sheriffs–wear the yellow star on their lapel.  Once they stray doing that, she is effectively shunned.  But she has no idea why–why does everyone hate the sheriff? (more…)

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »